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Associated Press
Mia Farrow, right, Ruth Gordon, center, and Patsy Kelly in "Rosemary's Baby" (1968).

5 Scary Movies for Halloween

October 13, 2010
by Colleen Brondou
These five horror classics offer real chills, high-octane suspense but very little gore. We promise: the very suggestion of what might happen will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Psycho (1960)

When Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steals $40,000 from her employer and skips town, all signs point to Very Bad Things. A rainstorm forces the desperate woman to stop for the night at the Bates Motel. There she meets Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the painfully shy, mama’s-boy proprietor—and her fate, in the shower.

Shot in stark black and white by master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, the film’s symbolic imagery, skillful cinematography and strikingly off-kilter musical score by Bernard Herrmann will make your pulse race (and probably keep you out of the bathroom for a while).

The Haunting (1963)

Based on Shirley Jackson’s novel, “The Haunting of Hill House,” the film, like those of Hitchcock, relies on the unseen to create fear and suspense.

Paranormal researcher Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson) is intent on uncovering the secrets of Hill House, a mansion whose past inhabitants have a history of violent death and insanity. Selected to help him are Eleanor (Julie Harris), a woman who feels a special connection with the mansion; Luke (Russ Tamblyn), a skeptic who will inherit the house; and outspoken Theodora (Claire Bloom), a psychic.

From the start, the story establishes Eleanor as the most vulnerable character: her mother has recently died and she’s run away from an unhappy home life. She fervently believes that Hill House is the experience she needs to transform her dreary existence.

Anxiety mounts as the mansion exerts its strange influence: doors mysteriously swing closed and loud pounding is heard. Eleanor is particularly affected by these events. Is she haunted by her dead mother? Is she losing her mind? Or is Hill House truly evil? Ultimately, it’s Eleanor’s desperation, sadness and despair—her personal haunting—that make “The Haunting” so frightening.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

When “Rosemary’s Baby” was published in 1967, it was one of the first horror novels to become a national bestseller. Directed by Roman Polanski, the film was released a year later and was also a hit.

Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her actor husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), move into a New York apartment. Life is a honeymoon until Guy starts spending time with their nosy neighbors, Roman (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie (Ruth Gordon) Castevet. When Rosemary becomes pregnant and Guy finds success on Broadway, the familiar details of every day life become laced with paranoia and suspicion. Is Rosemary just experiencing the hormonal swings of pregnancy, or is there a valid reason for her fear and dread?

Viewers familiar with Ruth Gordon from “Harold and Maude” may love her as the quirky eccentric. But in “Rosemary’s Baby,” she takes eccentricity in an entirely different, and downright sinister, direction, winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the process.

Alien (1979)

At a time when George Lucas dominated the science fiction landscape with the family-friendly likes of “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” Ridley Scott unveiled the darkly stylish science fiction/horror hybrid, “Alien.”

Starring Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, “Alien” unfolds slowly and ominously. The space freighter Nostromo, en route to Earth, receives a signal from a nearby planet and lands to investigate. When an alien hive is discovered and one of the crewmembers becomes infected, the rest of the crew think they have the situation under control. What they don’t know—and what we only gradually come to understand—is the sheer power and invincibility of a deadly creature that lurks, and waits.

The Shining (1980)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel “The Shining,” the movie takes the classic haunted house story one step further by incorporating an intricate character study of a man losing his mind.

Writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a recovering alcoholic, his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) serve as off-season caretakers for the Overlook Hotel. Problem is, the Overlook is haunted, Jack has writer’s block and Danny has “the shining,” an ability to see and know things—in this case, the bloody murders that have taken place at the hotel.

The camera tracking through the hotel’s seemingly endless hallways amplifies Danny’s visions, Wendy’s trepidation and Jack’s weakness and paranoia. When Wendy finds “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” typewritten endlessly on page after page of Jack’s manuscript, the effect is so simple, so chilling and so indicative of the subtlety and restraint that make “The Shining” such a terrifying film.

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